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INGREDIENT OF THE WEEK: MACA ROOT

JULY 20, 2016

Maca, a root that belongs to the radish family, is most commonly available in powder form. It is very rich in nutrients (has a higher calcium level than milk) and is very nutrient dense. Grown in the mountains of Peru, it has been called “Peruvian ginseng.” Maca root is an adaptogen, a name given to certain herbs, plants, and natural substances that help the body naturally adapt to stressors like a busy schedule, demanding job, or illness. Adaptogens are substances that raise your body’s resistance to diseases through physiological health and emotional health improvements. That means it can be a big help for people fighting the symptoms of chronic fatigue. It’s believed to do this by helping the adrenal and pituitary glands. making  you have that “feel good” feeling.  

Hormones, Fertility and Sexual Health

   Maca’s benefits have been long valued, and has recently been popularized as a supplement and food ingredient. Maca Root benefits include increased fertility in both men and women, hormone balance, booster for the immune system, and increased energy, stamina, improved sexual function, memory, and focus. Maca root has the capability to regulate, support, and balance the hormonal systems of both men and women. And since it’s boosting the hormones, it may also help with fertility, digestion, energy levels, and all things sexual. Maca Root is also well known to help with hormone balance that often contributes to improving the symptoms of PMS and Menopause. In females with PCOS, Maca is believed to help by controlling estrogen levels in the body. Estrogen levels that are either too high or too low can make it difficult for a women to ovulate and become pregnant. Therefore balancing the amount of estrogen that a woman produces, and in turn the amount of related progesterone produced, is very important for increasing reproductive health. Maca has been shown to have benefits for male hormonal health like improve sperm production, mobility, and volume, all important factors of increasing fertility. In a 2010 report summarizing the results of 4 clinical trials carried out by BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Maca was able to show benefits related to improving sexual dysfunction and sexual libido in adult men and women. 

Energy and Mood Enhancing

   Those who use Maca powder say that it makes them feel more awake, energized, and driven, often relatively quickly after beginning to use it. Compared to coffee it does not give the “jitters” or “shakiness” like high levels of caffeine does. Maca has positive effects on energy, stamina, and mood. Maintaining positive energy levels is related to having lower levels of anxiety and depression, both of which Maca has been shown to positively help achieve. An increase in focus, energy and mood enables people to concentrate better and therefore to improve memory and ability to complete tasks. Not only is it a natural source of healing nutrition, but it also has a long history of being a safe superfood that has been consumed for its medicinal benefits for thousands of years.

Possible Side Effects

    Because of Maca’s effects on hormone levels, physicians believe that Maca should not be consumed by people who rely on hormone-altering medications for treatment of illnesses like breast cancer or prostate cancer or for other serious conditions. People who have high blood pressure are also advised to not consume Maca.

Buying Maca & How to Consume

     Maca can be found in most health food stores in powder form. You may also find it available in capsule, liquid, or extract form. All forms are thought to be equally beneficial, however it’s best to buy Maca from a quality harvester that ensures its 100% pure Maca root powder and ideally look for a variety that is raw and organic. If you are new to using Maca powder and want to experience its benefits yourself, look for Maca in its most readily available powder form.  Then begin conveniently adding it to meals. While not overly sweet tasting, Maca has a natural nutty, slightly sweet quality to it, similar to cinnamon or nutmeg. The taste of Maca root blends well when added to a fruit smoothie, oatmeal, or cereal. Many people also use Maca by adding it in powdered form to different recipes that adjust well to the slight sweetness of maca.